Category Archives: Recap

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E5 “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

Writer/director Dave Filoni begins “The Jedi,” the fifth episode of the second season of The Mandalorian on a dark, bare landscape with trees and walled city. Dystopia is in the air, for sure. And, then, instead of holding her back for a teaser at the end of the episode, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) emerges from the darkness dual-wielding lightsabers and takes down the goons of the magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto). It’s one of many beautifully choreographed action sequences in “The Jedi” and a worthy live-action introduction for this popular character from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The scene also sets the episode’s stakes: either Ahsoka Tano leaves Corvus, or Elsbeth will start executing her own people that she tortures in front of her own bonsai tree/koi pond sanctuary.

Of course, Mando and The Child are utterly unaware of the situation on Corvus when they land in the middle of the aforementioned woods with giant creatures idly grazing around them. They get some tense questions at the city gate (Mando smartly conceals The Child/treats him like a pet.), don’t get any answers or conversation at all from the inhabitants of Corvus, and are finally brought before Elsbeth, who offers Mando a staff of pure Beskar to kill Ahsoka Tano and gives him her coordinates. Mando and Ahsoka Tano have a short fight, but she immediately knows that The Child is Force-sensitive and communicates with him telepathically in a touching silent sequence. She also learns his real name, Grogu, and a bit of backstory, including that he was trained on the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, escaped after the Great Purge, and has been wandering the galaxy and suppressing his true origins ever since.

The next day, Ahsoka Tano tests Grogu in his Force abilities, but he is held back by his anger, pain, and attachment to Mando, who uses a part of his ship to coax him to use his telekinesis. Because of all these factors, Ahsoka Tano refuses to train Grogu, but ever the deal-maker, Mando gets her to change her mind if he helps her liberate Corvus from Morgan Elsbeth and her hired gun, Lang (Michael Biehn). This leads to some great stealth action, a heavy dose of anti-fascism, and a thrilling duel between a Beskar staff-wielding Elsbeth and Ahsoka Tano. Inosanto is a highly-skilled martial artist and Bruce Lee’s granddaughter so her stances and moves are fluid and realistic.

"The Jedi"

Because she is his own co-creation and also integral to the overarching plot of The Mandalorian, Dave Filoni spends a lot of time with Ahsoka Tano, and she even gets her own mini-storyline apart from Mando and The Child that features yet another a nerdy Easter Egg and makes it seem like “The Jedi” is a backdoor pilot for a show with her as protagonist. Dawson plays Ahsoka Tano with a fierceness and also a sense of sad nobility as she is one of the last Jedi in the universe and had to watch her mentor, Anakin Skywalker, go to the Dark Side. Anakin’s name is never mentioned in the episode, but every time she mentions “anger” and “attachment” in the context of Grogu, you can tell that it’s not the usual Jedi line. She wants Grogu to have a good, long life and not follow the road down to the Dark Side. Maybe, he just wants to be a cute kid and not the next hope of the Jedi as one of only three members of Yoda’s (He finally gets a name drop.) species that have appeared in Star Wars canon.

Even though Ahsoka Tano (and honestly Morgan Elsbeth) steal the show, I love the character work that Filoni does with Mando in “The Jedi”. Every named character thinks that he will act according to traditional ways/factions, but he surprises them. Morgan Elsbeth gives him a little speech about the traditional rivalry between Mandalore and the Jedi and thinks that will sway him to work for her, but in actuality, he’s smuggling a little Jedi under his cloak. Later, in the episode, Lang sees him as a fellow gunslinger, appeals to his pragmatism to abandon a lost cause, and go home. However, this doesn’t work on Mando, who as we’ve seen throughout The Mandalorian, is an altruistic person, especially in regards to his relationship with Grogu. Filoni takes time to show Mando free the prisoners with the help of the old magistrate and make sure that they’re safe inside before he begins his fight with Lang while Ahsoka Tano duels with Elsbeth.

Mando isn’t a traditional hero, but he helps those who he feels are exploited by the very complicated post-fall of the Second Death Star society. However, with the torture and executions, Elsbeth is a pretty obvious baddie and a total fascist and war profiteer, who was able to afford her pure Beskar staff thanks to exploiting planets to make ships for the Imperial fleet. Seeing Ahsoka Tano kick her ass is quite satisfying, and there is real tension in the fight scene as Elsbeth disarms her and even gets a staff to her throat. Tano and Mando really have to use tactics to retake the city like the old faking his death so he sneak in and occupy the assassin droids and other goons while she quickly infiltrates Elsbeth’s sanctuary.

“The Jedi” really feels a lot like classic Star Wars with a plot about resistance against an authoritarian government with a side dish of fate, destiny, free will, and all that other stuff. But, maybe, Grogu has (silently) experienced so much trauma in his life that he doesn’t want to follow the traditional, Joseph Campbell monomythic path. Thankfully, Ahsoka Tano has experienced similar trauma over the years, and because of this and the bond she can see between Grogu and Mando, she reneges on her promise while giving them intel on a planet where Grogu can choose his fate once and for all. On the surface, it seems like a cop out to have Ahsoka Tano show up, be cool, and not end up training Grogu, but it’s grounded in her character and her experiences even if it continues The Mandalorian‘s RPG plot structure.

Finally, it would be a big omission to not praise the visuals and shot choices of director Dave Filoni and cinematographer Baz Idoine (He did second unit work on Rogue One.), who make Corvus an utterly hopeless and closed off place with its light brown, smoky color palette. Whenever Ahsoka Tano’s lightsabers ignite, it’s like just a glimpse of hope, and Filoni and Idoine linger on the post-liberation celebration like it’s a mini-version of the big one at the end of The Return of Jedi. The mist combined with the training that Ahsoka Tano does with Grogu also create shades of Dagobah and Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker faced his own doubts and didn’t respond to Yoda’s teaching very well. These little visual and sound cues have been a fun part of The Mandalorian Season 2 as the different writers and directors have used them to comment on Mando and Grogu’s journey, not just as fanboy Easter Eggs.

With its insights into Grogu’s emotions and backstory, a fierce, yet vulnerable performance from Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano, and operatic storytelling from writer/director Dave Filoni, “The Jedi” is the strongest hour of The Mandalorian Season 2 yet even with an ending that’s a little rocky. It puts the to-this-point self-contained relationship between Mando and Grogu in the context of the larger Star Wars mythos as well as being a crowd-pleasing good versus evil story with unlikely heroes, who traditionally would hate each other’s guts.

Overall Verdict: 8.8

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E4 “Chapter 12: The Siege”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

Mando checks in with some old friends, The Child heads to (pre) school, there’s a couple twists on some old Star Wars set pieces, and honestly, everyone ends up in worse trouble in The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 4 ” Chapter 12: The Siege“, written by Jon Favreau and directed by Carl Weathers. With its planet/adventure of the week plot structure, The Mandalorian doesn’t have an ensemble cast, but it does have a couple of interesting recurring guest actors. Weathers and Favreau use them nicely in this episode and also provide more commentary on the post-fall of the Empire universe as the New Republic struggles to connect with the Outer Rim (Even though its greatest hero is from there!) and the remnants of the Empire engage in a very Star Wars form of eugenics to try to get back in power.

In this episode, Mando goes to the planet Navaro (Where the pilot and a bit of the previous season took place.) to finally get the Razor Crest repaired and travel to Corvus to meet the last scion of the Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. These days, Navaro is pretty law abiding thanks to Marshal Cara Dune (Notable transphobe, anti-masker and general conspiracy theorist Gina Carano) and Magistrate Greef Karga (Weathers). There’s a school, commerce, and Karga has even employed former Mando bounty, Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) as his accountant to work of his debts. (Think Suicide Squad, but number crunching.) However, on the other side of the planet, there’s an Imperial base with a lot of heavy weaponry, and while Mando is waiting for his ship to be fixed, Dune and Karga rope him into blowing its reactor and bringing peace to the planet with Mythrol acting as hacker, lockpick, and getaway driver.

Mythrol’s getaway driver status is short lived when the team discovers that the base isn’t your run of a mill, but a lab where Imperial scientists are running very unethical tests and experiments on subjects using The Child’s blood. However, they’ve run out and need to recapture him again so this episode becomes a lot more complicated than blowing up a base over a lava pit and going home. As soon as Mando hears The Child is in danger, he jets off to protect him while Dune, Karga, and Mythrol end up in a speeder chase in the Star Wars equivalent of a Ford F-150. You can feel Weathers and cinematographer Matthew Jensen‘s glee in this sequence, which goes full Grand Theft Auto and escalates to TIE fighters and wraps up in a very A New Hope way.

My favorite part of “The Siege” was the adrenaline-filled third act where Imperial scout troopers actually behaved cleverly for once and may have actually gotten the upper hand if they weren’t so fanatical. (See last episode’s cyanide pill popping.) However, Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau spend the first bit of the episode showing the change and growth that Mando, Dune, Karga, and even Mythrol have gone through since last season. Dune has gone from a mercenary and prize fighter to a sheriff, who can keep the peace with her blaster and physical combat skills while Karga is back to his old respected government job ways instead of running numbers and bounties. However, he’s got a little bit of edge as evidenced by making Mythrol take all the big risks during the Imperial Base caper. Mythrol is still cowardly and wants to make an extra buck, but his new job keeps him in line. Dune and Karga’s goals have gone from trying to make a buck and forget about their more traditionally noble or heroic pasts to helping others and creating a safe “green zone” on where folks can live a life free from New Republic policing and bureaucracy and Imperial fascism.

And Mando has changed the most. He’s gone from treating the Child like a bundle, nuisance, or McGuffin to straight up treating him like a son. For example, in the beginning of “The Siege”, Mando tries to walk The Child through fixing something on Razor Crest because the little cutie can fit in tight spaces. However, this is a little advanced for him, and honestly, Mando should have just let him do the sci-fi western equivalent of holding the flashlight. Weathers and Favreau even riff on the dread “first day of school” when Karga tells Mando to drop him off at the classroom while they go on their mission. Weathers inserts a lingering shot of him looking away as The Child immediately gets into mischief and uses The Force to steal a classmate’s snack. Mando’s motivation is keeping The Child safe, happy, and hopefully one day, reconnected with others like him. This is a hell of a thing to build a TV show around and demonstrates why so many folks have emotionally connected with The Mandalorian.

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

The Mandalorian Season 2 continues to be in conversation with previous iterations of Star Wars, and after last week’s detour to Clone Wars and Rebels, we’re back to the original trilogy. Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau go full fanboy (But not in a toxic way.) and insert in all kinds of goodies like the aforementioned speeder bike chase, blowing up a reactor a la Endor, the classic gunner heads up display used in Vader’s TIE fighter and the Millennium Falcon, and in a touching moment even though Carano doesn’t quite sell the emotion, Alderaan. The inclusion of these elements create a nostalgic reaction in viewers that helps some of the themes that Favreau is exploring go down easier like the Rebels transformation into New Republic beat cops. I mean, we go from Han Solo and Wedge Antilles to some protocol spouting guy in an orange jacket using the death of all of Dune’s friends and relatives on Alderaan to recruit to “join the force”. I find the politics and tension of this era of Star Wars history really fascinating, especially when Favreau gives us this boots on the ground view although the information about Mandalorians is interesting too and places Mando in a larger context beyond “lone badass with a soft spot for a cute, occasionally bratty kid.”

“Chapter 12: The Siege” has a tense chase scene, a pleasant performance from Carl Weathers as Greef Karga and continues to show the bond between Mando and The Child in a sweet, occasionally funny way as it’s interesting to see Pedro Pascal change his body language and movements from sharing some soup with him to gunning down stormtroopers and pulling off crazy maneuvers in good-as-new Razor Crest. However, Jon Favreau undercuts this fancy flying and uses the last moments of the episode to have Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon raise this season’s stakes with a slight eyebrow movement. He’s a great villain, Mando knows he’s alive now, and I can’t wait for their rematch down the road.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E3 “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E3 "CHAPTER 11: THE HEIRESS"

Like the previous installment of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” features The Child being gluttonous, yet adorable and eating every weird alien tentacle thing in sight. However, it also further the quest for the Jedi plotline while placing Mando and The Child’s journey in the context of a much bigger world as they finally encounter some Mandalorians, but they’re not the most, shall we say, sympathetic to his quest and have designs on ruling Mandalore. Step one in their plan involves lots of piracy and stealing imperial weapons.

Bryce Dallas Howard immediately flexes her directorial chops with a gorgeous shot of Mando, Frog Lady, and The Child’s ship sputtering towards the water planet of Trask. (If you like Mon Calamari, this is the episode for you.) Everything that could go wrong goes wrong as the ship ends up covered in kelp and badly in need of repairs so it’s out of commission for the whole episode. But hope can be found even in the most bleak situations, and Howard and writer Jon Favreau give us some payoff for Frog Lady as she reunites with Frog Man and their kids while Ludwig Goransson channels his inner John Williams for a sweet, stirring score. The relationship that Mando formed with them in the previous episode ends up being important as they babysit The Child while he goes on the dangerous mission part of the story and also teach him that frogs are friends, not food.

For the rest of the episode, there aren’t really as many tender human moments except for Mando jumping into the belly of a mamacore when he gets double-crossed by some Quarren (Aka the squid looking guys) fishermen, who want his beskar armor, and have no intentions of leading him to other Mandalorians. But he ends up being found by three Mandalorians: Bo-Katan (A charismatic Katee Sackhoff), Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks), and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides). They take out Mando’s captors with precision and ease and rescue the child too. Howard captures their dynamic, fluid sense of movement compared to their opponents, and then shows they’re a little different when they remove their helmets, which is something completely against Mando’s belief system.

Speaking of belief system, the helmet removing and initial conversation between Bo-Katan and Mando sets up “The Heiress'” main theme, which is religious fanaticism. Apparently, Bo-Katan and her crew see Mando as a “zealot” and his views and mission to reunite The Child with the Jedi as restrictive. There’s a coldness between them even though Mando does agree to have a drink with them, mostly, because they’re his only lead as he isn’t super impressed by Bo-Katan’s aspiration to re-take Mandalore. He does show a grudging respect for her when she talks about being present at The Great Purge and having an armor passed down from generations. He is cool with helping them get weapons off an imperial freighter in exchange for information about the Jedi.

Except Bo-Katan doesn’t want to just steal weapons, she wants to steal the whole damn ship. Bryce Dallas Howard and Jon Favreau create some interesting parallels between her group of Mandalorians and the freighter’s crew led by the Imperial Captain (A stone-faced, yet really fun Titus Welliver). First of all, there’s this obsession with a return to a supposed Golden Age, which is the Galactic Empire for the Imperials and Mandalore for Bo-Katan. The Captain and his crew sign off with “Long live the Empire” when Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) refuses to send them reinforcements and would rather die than give the ship up to the Mandalorians.

Their sense of self-preservation has been overridden by their fanaticism. This extends to Bo-Katan and her crew, but they are much better fighters with Bo-Katan getting a thrilling sequence where she basically stabs a bunch of stormtroopers in close quarters combat. They have a single-minded cause and the skill to back it up, not unlike Gideon with his Darksaber at the end of last season.

Howard gets some bits of dark comedy from the reaction of basically the Imperial middle management to the report that the Mandalorians are onboard. She lingers on them sweating bullets as they realize that stormtroopers who “couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bantha” are the only thing standing between them and the Galaxy’s most ferocious warriors. The Stormtroopers do have fancy repeating blasters that even the odds for a little bit, but they’re no match for Mando, who is willing to put his body and Beskar on the line for a group of people he was duped by and strongly disagrees with.

The Mandalorian' Season 2, Episode 3 Review: 'The Heiress' Brings Back A  Fan Favorite

However, his real motivation comes into focus at the end of the episode where he warmly looks at The Child playing with Frog Man, Frog Lady, and their new baby and has an actual destination even if his ship is still on its last legs and crawling with some weird critters. (Hey, more food for The Child.) Jon Favreau never loses sight of heart of The Mandalorian, which is the bond between The Child and Mando, and they use the connection to the bigger Star Wars lore (Clone Wars and Rebels in this instance.) to add richness and stakes to their journey and explore themes like extremism and tradition with the help of cool armor and jet packs.

Finally, I have to give kudos to Favreau for being able to succinctly introduce Bo-Katan, her motivation, and the additions to the Mandalorian lore in a way that’s easy to follow for viewers who didn’t see those episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels while keeping the episode moving and not getting bogged down in exposition. I mean, that unyielding eye contact from Katee Sackhoff works all by itself.

“The Heiress” is a welcome return to form for The Mandalorian with versatile direction from Bryce Dallas Howard, who ably handles the big wide shots of planets as well as the intimate violence of hand-to-hand combat and a magnetic and storyline deepening guest performance from Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan. This episode is just a good time with plenty of action, adorable moments with Mando and The Child, and reminders of the complex world outside their quest.

Overall Verdict: 8.5

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E2 “Chapter 10: The Passenger”

THE MANDALORIAN S2E2 "CHAPTER 10: THE PASSENGER"

After “Chapter 9: The Marshal’s” cinematic scope, memorable guest performance from Timothy Olyphant, surprise reveal, and overall epicness, a sophomore slump seemed inevitable. In The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 2 “The Passenger”, writer Jon Favreau and director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man) take a break from the space Western and instead go for a lower stakes creature feature with plenty of The Child and a new character with the very Star Wars (1977) design and name of Frog Lady (Misty Rosas). “The Passenger” is cute, occasionally funny (Pedro Pascal has dry comedic timing as Mando.) , and has charming practical effects. However, it comes across as middling “monster of the week” episode, albeit, with an effects budget that can support mid-atmosphere X-Wing chases.

With the “Mandalorian” that Peli Motto (A feisty Amy Sedaris) turning out to be Timothy Olyphant in Boba Fett’s armor, Mando is already out of leads and has all kinds of randos on his tail trying to capture The Child. However, Motto and her insectoid buddy Dr. Mandible know someone that knows a Mandalorian on the nearby Trask system. But to meet this contact, Mando must play intergalactic taxi driver to his wife, Frog Lady and her eggs, who need to reach Trask because it’s the only place the children can survive. Unfortunately, this simple transport mission is derailed by overeager New Republic X-Wing patrols, a planet with an unstable surface, a colony of giant spiders, and The Child’s appetite for frog eggs even though that is mostly played for laughs.

Even though this episode had a real “filler before the good stuff” vibe, Jon Favreau and Peyton Reed do an excellent job showing the heartwarming relationship between The Child and Mando. This starts with Mando’s willingness to give up his jetpack (But not the buttons that remotely pilot it.) in exchange for The Child in the episode’s opening action sequence and extends to his good-natured scolding when The Child starts gobbling down frog eggs and finally to the little hammock that he has for him in his sleeping quarters on the ship. It might be the sheer ridiculousness of the episode premise or his inability to communicate with Frog Lady (Except when she hacks the voice box of his deactivated killer droid Zero.), but Mando has a lot of heart and humanity this episode from his sarcastic jokes about everything falling apart to his miming and pretending his communication systems don’t work when he’s pulled over by some cops, er, New Republic X-Wing fighters.

THE MANDALORIAN S2E2 "CHAPTER 10: THE PASSENGER"
You either die a Rebel, or you live long enough to see yourself become a space cop.

Reed’s comedy background definitely comes in handy in “The Passenger” from stray shots of The Child greedily eyeing various types of eggs to Mando’s stoic exasperation at everything from losing a bet with Peli Motto to his entire ship breaking down. He and Favreau even do some bits in the episode, which are honestly its best parts, like Motto arguing with her pit droids over the way she likes her krayt dragon steak cooked and then plopping it in her mouth. Sedaris’ performance as Motto is always a delight, and I’d love to see her in every episode even if her role really boils down to plot facilitator and fetch quest giver.

Speaking of fetch quests, the bits with the spiders on the ice planet really do seem like that annoying level of grinding, hacking, and slashing (Or in this case: blasting and flambeeing) before you get to the main storyline. The designs are suitably creepy, and they really do leave a mark on Mando’s ship as the final shot of the episode is it limping and spluttering in space like something out of Firefly, not Star Wars. However, they end up being a diversion and a chance for Peyton Reed to indulge his creep insect fetish unlike the krayt dragon, which seem more baked into the episode’s storyline, Mando’s arc, and the Star Wars mythos as a whole. The New Republic-ex machina is also mishandled after a pretty fun chase sequence with the pilots basically reading off plot points from last season to left Mando off the hook. They’re just super boring cops with cool ships, which shows that revolutionaries eventually become the establishment in the end the end although Favreau and Reed aren’t interested in unpacking this.

After a spectacular season premiere, The Mandalorian takes a bit of a dip in quality in “The Passenger”, which features some toothless adversaries and a storyline that doesn’t conclude as much as spin out across the end of the episode’s finish line. However, Peyton Reed and Jon Favreau’s quirky and occasionally disgusting sense of humor, some The Child adorableness, and Misty Rosas’ warm and physicality as Frog Lady keeping it from being a total snooze, especially if you’re into Amblin creature features.

Overall Verdict: 7.6

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E1 “Chapter 9: The Marshal”

The Mandalorian S2E1

This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 1 “Chapter 9: The Marshal”

It’s becoming an old adage that television in the 2010s (And now, the 2020s, I guess) has abandoned the art of the single episode and instead wants to be a 10-hour movie. (Or 13 in the case of the Marvel Netflix shows.) However, The Mandalorian bucked that trend and became a kind of Have – Gun Will Travel meets Lone Wolf and Cub wrapped up in a shiny cinematic package with talented guest stars, directors that some would consider to be auteurs, and of course, having a connection to the immersive world of Star Wars without the ol’ Skywalker. Each episode is a Western mini-movie with just enough serialization to get audiences to tune in next week. Or keep subscribing to the streaming service. And “The Marshal” is no exception.

Before getting into the episode’s main plot, writer/director/show creator Jon Favreau crafts a bit of a cold open to remind viewers that Mando (Pedro Pascal) is a laconic badass, a man of honor especially where his beskar armor is concerned, and desperately cares for The Child aka Baby Yoda. (Even though he takes him to some not very child-friendly places, a Gamorrean deathmatch isn’t Chuck E. Cheese.) The sequence also establishes Season 2’s overarching plot, which is that Mando is looking for The Child’s people, and to find them, he needs to find more of his people, the Mandalorians. This is why he’s at the aforementioned deathmatch even though Mando isn’t a gambling man.

However, his contact, the Cyclopean alien Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo) sees more value in his armor than in his paltry excuse for a fighter, and we get to see some of Mando’s new toys he picked up last season in action. Pedro Pascal brings great physicality to this sequence, and Emmy Award winning cinematographer Greig Fraser shoots the fight like a boxing match while adding some levity when The Child slowly closes his cradle when he realizes his daddy is going to cause some carnage. Ludwig Goransson’s score really helps the opening scene build starting with percussion, then guitars, and finally into the show’s iconic theme music as Koresh gets his comeuppance courtesy of some critters hinted at in an earlier dark and gritty tracking shot, and Mando is off to good ol’ Tattooine to find another Mandalorian.

After an adrenaline-filled, almost neo-noir opening sequence, Favreau is back in Western mode as Mando and The Child visit the nearly abandoned Tatooine mining town of Mos Pelgo, which Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) treats as the neglected sibling of the more famous Mos Eisley and Mos Espa in an adorable guest scene. Sedaris brings a dose of comic relief and acts as Favreau’s commentary on rabid fandom surrounding The Child as she offers to buy him or his future offspring. She’s a bit of sunshine before they arrive in the bleak ghost town of Mos Pelgo, and Favreau introduces a fairly basic theme of working together despite one’s differences as a gun slinger duel between Mando and Marshal Cobb Vanth (An incredibly well-cast Timothy Olyphant) over his Jawa-bought Mandalorian armor turns into a Jaws with sand as a Krayt dragon (Whose call Obi Wan used to scare off the Tusken Raiders in A New Hope) slithers through town. This sets up the main plot of this episode of The Mandalorian, which is that Mando, Cobb, the townspeople of Mos Pelgo, and the local Tusken Raiders must join forces to kill the Krayt dragon once and for all.

The Mandalorian S2E1

Also, there’s a kicker about Cobb’s armor: it belonged to Boba Fett. He’s not a Mandalorian and obviously knows nothing about The Way as he immediately takes off his helmet upon meeting Mando as Olyphant exudes casual contempt. Jon Favreau’s script and direction of “The Marshal” is richly intertextual without being mere fanservice. He uses familiar touchstones to play with audience’s preconceptions, and where George Lucas saw stereotypes or archetypes, he does something a little more nuanced. In a flashback scene, Favreau shows that the destruction of the Second Death Star didn’t have a positive effect on every planet in the galaxy and led to the Mining Collective taking over Mos Pelgo until Marshal Cobb uses some random crystals that he finds to purchase Fett’s armor and shoot and guided homing missile his way back to a semblance of law and order. The scene of Cobb breathlessly crawling through the desert makes him a sympathetic figure that transcends his initial “gunslinger of the week” trappings, which would frankly be a waste of Olyphant’s talents.

Even better is Jon Favreau’s reclamation of the Tusken Raiders, who had been relegated to something to avoid or even slaughter in Lucas’ films. (Notice how Anakin’s actions towards them in Attack of the Clones were justified until he killed women and children.) He uses them as a (Let’s be honest: a bit on the nose) sci-fi metaphor for indigenous people in “The Marshal” with Cobb refusing to drink their “smelly” water in a scene where Mando is trying to set up an alliance and use their knowledge of the Krayt dragon to take it down. Olyphant does a good job playing the uncomfortable colonizer as Mando effortlessly communicates via low tones, hand signals, and the occasional loud utterance while Cobb and later the townspeople feel awkward and even react in anger when a Tusken raider fumbles an explosive charge. The agreement that Mos Pelgo and the Tuskens make also acts as a commentary on Western countries’ preemptive strikes as in exchange for the Krayt dragon’s blood and carcass, the Tuskens won’t attack Mos Pelgo unless they are attacked first. This has happened in the past as evidenced by a one-liner about Cobb not drinking their water even though he and his miners had stolen it in previously.

Along with using Star Wars lore to make sociopolitical commentary, “The Marshal” is also a damn fun monster movie. Favreau parcels out just enough exposition to make Mando, the Tuskens, and Cobb’s plan easy to follow and then shoots it all to hell to keep things interesting. He goes the Steven Spielberg route and saves the big money shot of the monster for the end of the episode using the effects of its actions like the sand shifting and windmills aggressively blowing as well as stories of its exploits (It ate the Sarlacc and is living in its lair!) to build tension. And it lives up to the hype with some wonderful creature design that matches its sandstorm introduction. Also, Mando and Cobb get to fly around on jetpacks to fight it, which is damn cool, and there’s another Boba Fett related Easter Egg that is integral to how they best the creature.

The Mandalorian S2E1

The way that Mando takes down the Krayt dragon also adds to his character as he’s willing to improvise and come up with non-orthodox solutions in stressful situations and is willing to take chances and sacrifice himself for those around him. Even though its the first episode of a season in a show named after him, Pedro Pascal really sells the fact that he might die and makes sure that The Child is well taken care of before he literally goes into the belly of the beast. Although, he doesn’t play an active role in the plot, The Child continues to humanize and soften Mando even in the most high-stress situations.

Some heavy-handedness aside, “The Marshal” is a fun and smart return for The Mandalorian as Jon Favreau and company use the world and mythos of Star Wars to tell a genre-bending story that comments on the role of indigenous people in both science fiction and Western stories. It’s also a hell of a shoot ’em up with cinematic action and a memorable, nuanced guest performance from Timothy Olyphant, who parts as friends with Mando, and I hope makes a return to a series as a gun-slinging lawman that learns to be a little less species-ist. And the final scene is truly a jaw dropper…

Overall Verdict: 8.6

Review/Recap: Helstrom S1E3 “The One Who Got Away”

The previous episode of Helstrom left us with a very possessed, after being bitten by the skull, Chris. He kills the brother of the serial killer that Ana made commit suicide in the pilot when he comes looking for answers to his accomplice/sibling’s death. We also found out that mom really loves Ana, and the dark force that the siblings have been hunting from both ends is their father. Those big reveals and changes leave us with a lot to look forward to in Helstrom S1E3 “The One Who Got Away” and the build up was worth it because it gets you even more invested in the episodes that are going to follow.

Helstrom S1E3 "The One Who Got Away"

The One Who Got Away: The demon inhabiting mom’s body lets the siblings know that their Dad is back and he’s going after the one who got away. Ana is convinced that the one who got away is her and she’s scared. But, Gabriella’s research leads them to a victim of her fathers who got away. Her name is Zoe and it turns out that despite the horrible things that happened to her, including being burned alive, she managed to survive and has been living in secret at her sisters until Ana, Gabriella, and Daimon come to call. Zoe’s sister pretends to be her and sees this as a way to enact revenge on the little girl who led her sister into a trap, putting Ana in danger in the same way Ana put her sister in danger.

Helstrom S1E3 "The One Who Got Away"

Daddy’s Home: Zoe’s sister gets what she wants, sort of, when she leads Ana into an abandoned building but, she also gets something she didn’t expect. The person who is supposed to get her revenge for her sister is the person who did the horrible things to her sister in the first place, and when he turns on her and kills her, she dies not knowing the whole story. Ana goes toe to toe with dear old dad solo and jumps out of the building to get away from him because, this isn’t the dad she knew, he’s a suped-up version of him with a whole lot of new tricks and powers up his sleeve.

Helstrom S1E3 "The One Who Got Away"

Episode MVP: Ana! No question. Sydney Lemmon portrays her with such conviction, talent, grace, and heart that you forget she isn’t a “real” person. It’s impossible not to want to give her a hug and tell her it wasn’t her fault and that she was just a child and should let go of all that guilt. Her character went through the wringer this episode and you felt every moment of anguish, pain, and fear right along with her. If she was to win an Emmy based on this episode alone, I wouldn’t be mad at it. The way she fought her dad off with such ferocity through her fear and how she broke down in front of her brother almost immediately afterward is the stuff that true character development and amazing acting chops make legends of and I’m here for it.

Overall: Helstrom S1E3 “The One Who Got Away” doesn’t tell us what happened to Chris but, there was so much other awesomeness going on, I didn’t mind that loose end being left hanging, in fact, I kind of forgot about it. The writers seem to be very capable and I’m sure they will double back to that string at a later episode. This episode filled in a few more blanks about the siblings’ dad, their mom, the Caretaker, and Hastings. We learn about the things that Ana was forced to do, to survive, as a child under her dad’s murderous roof and we can see how it impacts her today. The story was very Ana and her trauma centered and I liked it. I also love learning about Hastings and Caretaker’s friendship and the private very human battle that Hastings has been fighting on her own. There was a lot of heart in Helstrom S1E3 “The One Who Got Away” and it aided in me becoming bonded and fully invested in the characters and the story. I can’t wait to see what happens next and make sure that Ana is okay.

Overall Rating: 9.7

Review/Recap: Helstrom S1E2 “Viaticum”

HELSTROM S1E2 “VIATICUM”

Helstrom S1E2 “Viaticum” starts off filling in a little bit more of the siblings’ backstory and gives some much-needed info on their family dynamic and shared family trauma. The family side of this dark supernatural drama is only part of the story in the show and in this episode. No sooner than the full family reunion kicks off we find ourselves drawn back into the mystery of the demon who’s inhabiting mom’s body and what it’s after.

HELSTROM S1E2 “VIATICUM”

Family Affair: After a decades-long absence Ana finally gets a one one one with her mom. In an attempt to “connect” she slaps her mother coaxing out a telekinetic attack that flings her and Dr. Hasting across the room. Daimon and Ana come to verbal blows and bring up a lot of family history after Ana’s visit with her mom and the slap that followed. There’s a lot of sibling bickering that seems realistic and rings true. There’s a lot of pain and jealousy and it’s nice to see the show showcase a real family dynamic with compassion and honesty.

The Big Bad: A man inhabited by the demon’s henchman gets picked up by a Good Samaritan who repays his kindness with a ruthless attack. Ana’s associate is trying to work out the provenance of an axe when he finds himself face to face with the skull that the demon sent his possessed acolytes to find. Of course, her partner lies to the Caretaker about being in possession of the skull, even though it was whispering in a wild old language when he was checking out the axe. I’m a fan of the way the show drops breadcrumbs in each episode about what the demon is up to, it builds suspense and keeps the viewer invested in what happens next.

HELSTROM S1E2 “VIATICUM”

Overall: So far the show isn’t perfect, it’s a slow burn on a long wick but, it’s pretty damn close. Helstrom S1E2 “Viaticum” builds on the tension and story from the last one. It’s well written like the pilot, beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and the directing is top-notch. I like the way the show highlights relationships between people and families, the ones you are bound to by blood, and the ones who choose you. We learned in the pilot that Daimon had Dr. Hastings. In this episode, we find out that Ana had the Caretaker when she got a little older. We also learn that there are two different factions who have been keeping the siblings apart for unknown reasons. There’s a lot of mystery going on in this show and while we don’t get a lot of supernatural power showcasing we do get a good story. The build-up to the full power blast that we are expecting to come at some point this season seems like a fun gamble that I hope is worth it. But, if I don’t get it, I won’t be too disappointed because the story is good enough so far that it’s still worth it to watch,

Review/Recap : Helstrom S1E1 “Mother’s Little Helpers”

Helstrom

Kicking off the first episode of Helstrom, n Portland, Oregon, Saint Teresa’s in under attack. In Salem, Oregon Sister Gabriella and Daimon have come to call on Mr. Cavallo and his wife who is dealing with an attack of their own from their demon-possessed child. After a few minutes alone with the kid, Damion realizes that the kid isn’t possessed just crying out for attention, and calls his bluff by showing him his power, setting the stage for a supernatural Marvel show that could possibly give us everything that New Mutants could never.

The Run Down: It’s 2020 so obviously I’m naturally afraid of anything that might bring back the murder hornet, so when the escaped Saint Teresa patients and the rogue guard make their way to a crypt in the City of the Dead and decide to open it up for the lolz, I get a little nervous. While Daimon is on the hunt for the escapees and wants to stop their plans, his sister Ana is working on things for the other end as she tries to find out why someone broke into the City of the Dead in the first place and what kind of demon they unleashed. Sister Gabriella is tired of being kept in the dark and her insistence on being kept in the loop she can report back to the Vatican might get her in more trouble than she can handle.

Helstrom

A Family Affair: Helstrom focuses on a family. This episode introduces some of the major players. Daimon, Ana, and their mother. In the first half of the episode, we get to meet them and see what each of them is bringing to the table. Ana has a side hustle where she hunts serial killers and uses her powers to kill them in a way that looks like natural causes, Daimon uses his power to fight demons, and mom is possessed by a demon who is up to something sinister. We are also introduced to Dr. Hastings who raised Daimon to fight demons on Earth but didn’t get to raise Ana, who still grew up to fight another kind of demon, the human kind who are mortal and still your everyday kind of normal monster.

Helstrom

Best Scene: The backstory montage complete with the tear-jerking follow up Ana and Daimon separation scene. It is well done, emotion-evoking, and done in a way that fills the viewer in on most of what they need to know to catch them up if they’ve never read or heard of the comics. We see the mother’s torment at the hands of the demon and her isolation, Sister Gabriella learning about the family history, Ana working on her side of the case, and Daimon trying to figure out what big bad is being set free and hoping to find a way to save her mother.

First Impressions: This was a well thought out, neatly packaged first episode that gave off a Dresden Files tv show vibe minus the campiness. There are touches of a procedural mixed with supernatural fun that gives you a story to follow and adds to the suspense. Every moment in the first episode builds up perfectly to the end scene where the siblings finally reunite and since everything fits together seamlessly you get the feeling like you’re about to embark on an epic journey with them. The show is dark in nature but, doesn’t take itself too seriously or lean into the campiness of the implausible situations that the characters find themselves in. The writers manage to find a happy medium where you get an otherworldly environment that feels based in reality. The show has just enough of the source material to keep the fans of the comic happy but, enough nuance and story arc to bring in people who have never heard of Helstrom. There is a hold back in the first episode that I hope they handle in future episodes, the reasons behind the sibling’s separation isn’t made clear in the first episode, nor is their paternal side fully brought up. I find it to be an interesting thing to tease by not go into because in some ways it adds more to the mystery. In other ways, it feels like a bit of a plot hole in a show that seems to have a huge story to tell and a lot to dig into. Overall I found the episode to be well crafted and enough of a taste to keep me around to see what happens next. I found myself invested in the story and the heart of it all, the characters were well written and the acting gave them enough life that they feel real.

Overall: 8.2

Recap/Review: Umbrella Academy S2E10 “The End of Something”

Umbrella Academy Season 2

The good news is the Academy averted the apocalypse, the bad news is they’re now tagged as terrorists (except for Five who the government thinks is being held as a hostage). Elliot’s loft is no longer a safe place since the Commission is clearly on the hunt for them and can find them anywhere and at any time. And, they still can’t stop arguing with each other from their individual insecurities long enough to figure something out we’re in for another bumpy ride with our favorite ragtag group of supernatural siblings.

The Vanya Connection: When calling to check in on Sissy, Vanya realizes her connection to Harlan and heads back to the farm to help her. After finally accepting her place in the family she asks her siblings for help and after some initial resistance, they all come along to help her save the kid.

Time Isn’t on Their Side: While Vanya is trying to save Harlan, the Handler and Lila show up to bring Five in for killing the board and she came with all of the available agents the Commission had on hand, so basically an army.

Say What? Remember last season when we were trying to find out what happened to the other kids? Well, it looks like the Handler found one and she’s basically Rogue. Also, Diego can control metal? That’s infinitely cooler than being able to hold his breath underwater for a long time. Vanya finally has control of her powers and Klaus can raise an army of the dead.  And, let’s not even talk about the WTF ending!

Side Note: Is it just me or does anyone else wonder why the Commission keeps coming for Five? He’s like a walking, talking, ass-kicking DMX lyric. Why do they keep coming for his level of smoke?

Final Thoughts: Because of the time period this season dealt with some pretty serious things and they did it in a brilliant and beautiful way. They had a realistic 1960s lesbian love story, tackled segregation, AND managed to have an ASD kid who didn’t get “cured” and have that be the ideal end result. All of these different types of people and different issues and they dealt with them respectfully and with integrity. Season One was amazing but, Season Two showed us something even better. The creative time kicked some serious ass, between the color palates and the beautiful shots,  the amazing acting and killer scripts, Season Two was an off the chain ride that is binge-worthy AF. This season dives deeper into the Academy member’s lives and origins leaving us to want to keep following their stories and lives.  Season Three has got some pretty big shoes to fill and some pretty big questions like do Vanya and Sissy ever meet up again? Does Dave go off to war and if he does, does he remember what Klaus told him and make it back alive? Does Ray become a civil rights icon? What’s up with Herb? Where in the (timeline) world is Lila Super Powered?  What’s the deal with the Sparrows? Is Five ever going to grow up?

Recap/Review: Umbrella Academy S2E9 “743″

Diego, Klaus, and Allison walk into the FBI. There isn’t a joke in there it’s how this episode of Umbrella Academy starts, right where we left off, trying to save Vanya from the FBI because their torture has caused her to go full White Violin. Diego and Allison can’t get through so it’s up to Klaus, we’ll actually it’s up to Ben because he’s the only one who can get close enough to turn off the rage in Vanya’s head.

On the Fives: Old Man Five doesn’t trust Teenage Five and they both seem to have a case of Paradox Psychosis so, neither one trusts the other one and they both want to kill each other. Poor Luther is stuck playing babysitter because he thinks that Old Man Five has a better plan.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY S2E9 “743"

Best Line(s) : “I will beat you…and NOT the way you like it.” – Diego to Klaus on the Vanya rescue mission

“You fought in Vietnam.  You survived a family of seven. You went to a fraternity party in a sarong and came home with a bunch of numbers. You can do this!” – Klaus to himself in the world’s greatest pep talk.

Episode MVP: Ben. Save the Vanya and save the world. Ben has spent most of the season being the voice of reason to Klaus and whether or not they know it, he has solid advice for his other siblings as well. His longing to reconnect with them and with life itself is emotional to watch on its own but, the lengths that he goes to in order to save his siblings with no regard for his existence in one of the more emotional scenes this season is beautiful AF and, earns him this episodes MVP status.

Double Trouble: I’ve been feeling all kinds of sorry for Luther this season but, it’s actually kind of fun to watch him have to ping pong between being the caretaker of the older version and the younger version of Number Five. The two of them trade barbs with each other and make all kinds of digs at Luther for his appearance and his intellect but, with the Paradox Paranoia setting in on both of them it’s kind of funny to watch it all play out. Watching the two Fives try and off each other adds a  whole three stooges level hilarity to the situation giving much-needed levity to an otherwise heavy episode.

Side Stories: Carl is mediocre cis toxic white male little d*** masculinity at its finest so, watching Sissy stand up to him,  take her son back and go off to live her best life was nice to see. The fact that he didn’t care that she wasn’t happy because since he did the bare minimum and felt that she should be happy with that. It was a real-life glimpse into how lesbians and women were treated in the time and it was well done and clever AF.

There’s also the matter of Lila finding out that Five was the trigger man on her parent’s murder and why she was an orphan and there may be more to her story than we know. But, now we’ve got to worry about Five because he doesn’t know she’s coming.

But, Why Tho: Watching the Handler snatch AJ out of his fishbowl and swallow (yeah, I said SWALLOW) the fishy chairman of the Commission’s board in one gulp, with a painful swallow after her meeting with Lila was gross AF but, on-brand for her character and the show.

The Final Countdown: Diego still wants to save Kennedy now that Vanya is no longer a bomb that starts the apocalypse. The season could have ended right here but, adding one more episode after Daddy Hargreeves “Told you so…” note to Diego as he tackled a decoy version of him on the grassy knoll, that whole secret Cabal murder meet cute and reveal and, the Handler’s call to war at the commission, I’ve got questions!

« Older Entries